A Picture of the Church in the Last Days

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
  Acts 17:11 ESV

If there ever was a time to be a Berean, now is it!  I want to use the United States as an example, as there have been some illuminating studies done here recently.  A February 2017 study by the American Culture & Faith Institute revealed some alarming statistics.  While over 70% of Americans call themselves “Christian”, only 46% of Americans claim to have a “biblical worldview”.  Less than half, that’s still not bad, right?  Well, the study results showed that only 10% of Americans actually have a biblical worldview – a mere “tithe” of the population.  This huge gap between what people think they believe, and what their actions and statements suggest they truly believe, is alarming.

Perhaps you’re wondering what the study defined as a “biblical worldview”?  A series of 40 questions were designed to ferret out basic beliefs about the Bible, Sin, Salvation, and Jesus.  They also identified whether or not people were practicing what God’s word teaches.  This wasn’t advanced theology – it was more like Bible 101.  If you want to take the quiz yourself and examine how well your worldview lines up with Scripture, it can be found at CultureFaith (it’s a PDF).

While the study was performed in America, I have a sneaking suspicion that the results would be similar in many nations that call themselves “Christian”.  So how do we fix this?  How do we develop a biblical worldview?  It’s very simple – we search the scriptures for ourselves!

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“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”   Amos 8:11 ESV

There is a self-imposed famine in America.  People are dying for lack of spiritual bread and living water!  The United States has one of the highest number of churches per capita in the world, but less than 10% of its’ citizens read the Bible for themselves.  What a horrible tragedy!  Never before has the Word of God been so accessible.  How people in other generations and countries would have treasured the opportunity to read God’s personal message!

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Falling Away from Sound Doctrine

Is this straying from a Biblical worldview predicted in scripture?  Do the characteristics of the church in our day match those stated by the Bible as being present “in later times”, the time leading up to the end of the age?

While some might reference 2 Thessalonians 2 here, I don’t believe that is an appropriate reference, which I discuss more here:

From the very earliest days of the church, the pull of the world has remained a formidable temptation to the church.

Compromise With the World

The situation of the church in our day fits right in with what Jesus warns of in His letters to the Churches found in Revelation 2-3.  I believe that these letters, while written to actual churches in John’s day, were specifically dictated by Jesus so that they would be relevant to all believers in all generations.  In these letters, Jesus warns the church against:

  • Losing Their First Love (Ephesus – Revelation 2:1-7).  What does this mean exactly?  Well, sound doctrine and good works are commendable, but not at the expense of passion.  We are not to allow our service to become mechanical.  Does this sound like something familiar?  Religion is a set of beliefs (doctrine) and a set of actions (works/traditions).  And that’s all religion can be.  Jesus urges this church to repent and return to the passion they had for Him in earlier times – with Jesus it’s about RELATIONSHIP.  I am reminded of Matthew 22 – 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment…”
  • False Doctrine and Compromise with the World (Pergamum – Revelation 2:12-17).  The condemnation for Pergamum centers around false teaching and compromise with the world – it is socially oriented and tries to please the masses [itching ears, anyone?].  Spiritual idolatry is raising anything above God in prominence in our lives.  While the majority of believers in Pergamum did not participate in these errors, they tolerated those who did, and did not exercise church discipline.
  • False Doctrine, False Prophet, Sexual Immorality (Thyatira – Revelation 2:18-19).  False doctrine and compromise with paganism (other religions) is in view here.   Unlike Pergamum, the majority of this church was in error.  This church had love, but not sound doctrine (the opposite of Ephesus, and equally destructive).  The majority of this church is entrenched in the world, inviting of other religious practices (think yoga and other middle eastern influences), and living in sin – maybe flamboyantly, maybe secretly – and justifies it all with false doctrine.  I believe this letter describes some liberal churches quite accurately… those who embrace all manner of sexual sins included.
  • Spiritual Sleep (Sardis – Revelation 3:1-6).  The false teaching and sinful living in the Sardis church resulted in most members being dead in their sins.  Their works were done by their own efforts, not through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.  [This reminds me of the passage in Isaiah 64:6 – All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.]  There were very few actual believers in Sardis.  They need to wake up (open their spiritual eyes) if they want to be saved!
  • Lukewarm Faith (Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-22).  The letter to the church at Laodicea is the only one to which Jesus says nothing positive – in this way, it is even worse than being dead (Sardis)!  Just like the city’s water supply (arriving dirty and warm through a series of aquaducts), the church here was lukewarm and thus repulsive to Jesus.  The spiritually alive in their transformed lives are “hot” [the found, the saved, the “good soil” that produces mature fruit], the spiritually dead in their outright rejection of Jesus are “cold” [the lost, the unsaved, the “hard soil” where the seeds are all snatched away] , but the hypocrites who are neither hot nor cold.  These are Christians “in name only” –  they have been touched by the gospel in some way but are trying to ride the fence.  These people, in their earthly comfort and riches, have deceived themselves with a false sense of security by having “a bit of religion”.  In reality are spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  They make a mockery of Christ by their actions – knowing the truth but refusing to submit to it in their hearts.  There are very few, if any, true believers in Laodicea.

We would do well to heed the letters to the Churches found in Revelation 2-3 and examine ourselves to see if we align with the overcomers!  (More on the overcomers HERE).

A Picture of the Visible Church Near the End

While the church has always struggled with living in the world but not of it, the Bible does teach that this will worsen towards the time of the end.  I want to draw a distinction here between the “invisible body of Christ”, which is all those who have been born-again into Christ and are “Christ-followers”, and the visible church, which consists of the organized “Christian” religious system.  I believe that Paul is talking about the religious system called “Christianity” here:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  1 Timothy 4:1-3 ESV

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.   2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV

From these passages we learn that in “later times”:

  1. Some will depart from the faith and embrace deceitful spirits and teachings of demons:   This is a departure from sound doctrine.
  2. Consciences are seared:   Their hearts are dead spiritually and sin doesn’t bother them.  They will engage in sin openly.
  3. Who Forbid Marriage:   Marriage isn’t being forbidden in our day per se, but the definition of “marriage” has changed.  From a Google search, over 90% of the population in non-Muslim nations engage in premarital sex.  Less than half of American children live in families where the parents are their original, first marriage, mom and dad.  Many countries have recently changed the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, which is specifically forbidden by God.
  4. Require Abstinence From Foods:  There is a small subset of the population that abides by the Torah food laws, I’m not sure if this is what Paul is referring to.
  5. People Will Not Endure Sound Teaching:  In the latter days, people will stray from sound doctrine and collect teachers that preach love, self-acceptance and other humanistic, social doctrines rather than literal truths from scripture.  These humanistic ideas are considered “myths” by Paul.

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Gotquestions has a very thought-provoking article on the disconnect between what people think they believe and what they actually believe:

Question: “Can a person believe in some sense but not be saved?”

Answer: There are different levels of belief, and different objects of belief, and not all that’s called “belief” is actually saving faith. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” So, if a person simply believes that there is a God in heaven—and that’s the extent of his faith—then he has exactly the same faith as the demons of hell. That’s not saving faith, even though it involves a measure of belief. Therefore, yes, a person can “believe” in some sense but not be saved.

It is quite possible for a person to have an initial positive response to the gospel without being saved. He may feel his heart stirred at the stories about Jesus. He may even identify with Christ through baptism and church membership and get involved in ministry—all the while not being born again. We see instances of this in Scripture (Matthew 7:21–23; 13:24–30) and in everyday life.

We can illustrate the disconnect between some kinds of “belief” and saving faith this way: many Americans are overweight, and at the same time there are thousands of weight-loss products available. People will see an infomercial about the latest home exercise equipment, and they say, “That’s just what I need!” and they buy the equipment. They receive their purchase and eagerly use it—for a couple of weeks. Six months later it’s back in the box packed away somewhere. What happened? They believed in a product, but it wasn’t the type of belief that led to lower body weight. Nothing really changed in their lives. They had an initial positive response, but rather than possessing genuine “faith,” so to speak, they were merely indulging a passing fancy. People do this with Christ as well (see Matthew 13:5–7).

God knows our hearts. We, however, cannot see the hearts of other people and may often be deceived about our own hearts as well. That’s why Paul writes, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If we want confidence about our spiritual situation, we need to do more than look back to some words we said in the past when we “accepted Christ”; we need to also examine our current condition to see if there is evidence of God’s work in our lives today—changing us from within, convicting us of sin, and drawing us to repentance.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/believe-not-saved.html

Scoffing and Mocking from WITHIN the Church

Not only will people desire to hear what soothes their consciences, they will actively oppose those who stand for truth.  Those within the church will scoff and mock those who are actively watching for the coming of Jesus Christ.

…”you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,  knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”  (2 Peter 3:2-4 ESV)

When Peter states that the scoffers and mockers will ask about the promise of Jesus’ coming, and refer to the fathers of the faith (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), it suggests that the people scoffing and mocking are aware of these promises and these fathers.  Only those within the church would consider themselves to have Abraham as their spiritual father!

The Prophetic Years described this phenomenon well back in 2011:

Today premillenial futurist Dispensational Theology is losing ground every day in Evangelical Christianity and you will seldom hear it taught from the pulpits anymore. It also will not be found in your Sunday school material. I think this falling away from premillennialim and the teaching of the imminent coming of Jesus is prophetic in itself. It had to be fulfilled, if we are indeed in the last days.

Peter said Christians will be mocking other Christians saying, “where is the promise of His coming”, they will obviously insinuate that your belief of a soon coming Rapture and the return of Jesus is a false hope that is even harmful to the Church. Pastors will teach that we must put away all such foolishness and work to Christianize the world through social justice programs. All that are teaching Premillennial Theology with the physical return of Jesus will be marginalized and perhaps not even welcomed in their fellowships.

The trend In Christianity is already this way in the churches that have become unequally yoked with unbelievers that intend to set up an interfaith world of social justice. This trend away from premillennialism will only increase because of more failed date setting. Soon premillennial evangelicals will become open game for soft and hard dominionist media Evangelicals, and their mocking will spread into the general church populations.

That is when this “where is the promise of His coming” rant will be literally fulfilled. Some have claimed fulfillment in the past, but they were really grasping at straws. I do not believe it will be some subtitle innuendo. It will be a direct mocking confrontation against those that hold fast to Premillennial Theology and the soon return of the Lord. This is what I believe Peter is saying in his passage. We have not seen that fulfilled yet, but we see that things are rapidly trending in that direction. We now see the Seeker, Purpose Driven, Emergent and New Apostolic Reformation churches are becoming increasingly hostile toward Premillennial Theology. Get ready for more flame throwing against anyone that takes Bible prophecy literally.

But, blessed is the the person that holds fast to the promise of the Lord’s coming. That promise of His patience was held by only one of the seven church types that identify Christianity, and they are the only Church type that was promised to be kept out of the great trial that will come upon all those that dwell on the earth.

Rev 3:10  Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Jesus said, “will there be faith on the earth when I come” (Lk 18:18), Jesus probably was not talking about faith to believe that salvation came through Him. The Church has to have salvation faith, or it is not the Church. Jesus was referring to faith that He would soon return and judge the earth. The answer to His question is that other than a small minority that kept the promise of His coming and His patience, there will not be that kind of faith on the earth when Jesus comes.

Source:  The Prophetic Years: Christians Will Be Caught Unawares Because They Gave Up Premillennialism: http://www.thepropheticyears.com/wordpress/christians-will-be-caught-unaware-because-they-gave-up-premillennialism.html

Now, in 2017, those of us who are actively watching the convergence of signs and the Revelation 12 sign are being scoffed and mocked to no end – mainly by others proclaiming to be Christians.

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?  (Luke 18:8 ESV)

When Jesus calls, will there be people watching who have faith that He is coming?  Though the watching community is small, we make up for it in zeal and passion for His return!


Further Resources:

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.

Main Menu – God’s Mosaic Prophecy Model

The Bible is infallible.  I am not.  I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture.  I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details, some of which I think might need to be adjusted slightly.  I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!

 

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